Green Elder Shoots – Recipe

by Ciaran Burke

Green Elder Shoots in brine

Green Elder Shoots in Brine

This is an old recipe, and an odd one. While elder flower coridals and elder flower ‘Champagne” are becoming more widely known, I bet not many people are trying out the new green shoots!

In spring and early summer the common elder, Sambucus nigra, produces very vigorous strong green shoots from the base of the plant and sometimes the green growths arise along older branches. These can be cut, peeled and after being soaked in salted water overnight they can be eaten raw or cooked. The most surprising thing is that they are very tasty.

Collecting the shoots

Cut the vigourous green growths in late spring. They can be a metre long or more, Do not collect any woody portions of the stems. If you try them and like them, it moght be an idea to have a couple of shrubs of Sambucus nigra that you grow especially for stems. S. nigra is an ideal plant for coppicing, that is hard pruning in late winter. By cutting the previous years growth to with in 10cm of the base in February each year strong vigorous shoots will be produced. Not all of these should be harvested, leave some to grow and produce food for the following year’s growth, much like on would treat asparagus.

Cut elder stems

Preparing the shoots

Remove the very soft tips and the leaves. Discard any portion of the stem that is becoming woody, either cut it or snap it away.

Use a sharp knife and remove all the skin from the stem. It peels away very easily.

Peeling the green elder stems with a sharp knife

When you have peeled the shoots cut them into 15cm lengths or what ever size suits. Lie the peeled shoots in a bowl, cover with water and add salt, a teaspoon in about 400ml should be enough and then add a squeeze of lemon. I find that the lemon helps preserve the colour.

Green elder shoots in salted water

Leave the stems over night. The following morning refresh the water, place the shoots in a sterilized jam jar with screw top lid. You can use less salt and add a squeeze of lemon juice to help preserve the shoots.

I am not sure how long the elder shoots will hold in this way, we are still experimenting!

Elder shoots on goats cheese toasts

A quick and tasty snack, easy to prepare.


  • Slices of brown bread
  • Clove of garlic
  • Kilmallock organic goats cheese (my preference but you can use cheddar or any cheese)
  • Dried oregano
  • Some green elder shoots in brine


  1. Toast the bread in a toaster, meanwhile peel the garlic clove and slice or grate cheese, enough to cover your bread slices, heat up the grill too!
  2. When bread has popped from the toaster rub the peeled garlic on one side of the bread.
  3. Place the cheese on the side rubbed with garlic, sprinkle with oregano and slice the elder shoots in half and place on top.
  4. Place bread under the grill and toast until the cheese has melted.

2 Comments to “Green Elder Shoots – Recipe”

  1. Wow… interesting post. These are the same things that the berries used in making wine come from, right?

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